On April 6, Dr. Tom Nichols—one of America’s leading experts on Russia, NATO, and nuclear weapons—gave a stimulating and informative presentation about Russia’s war against Ukraine at a well attended and well received Circle Talk in the Schoolhouse’s Sackett Forum.
Dr. Nichols, who recently retired from the U.S. Naval War College after twenty-five years as a professor of national security affairs, won over the students early by briefly explaining his experience as a five-time undefeated champion on the popular television game show, Jeopardy. He then dove into the topic of the evening and explained in detail the causes and nature of what he called the largest and most significant war in Europe since World War II. He blamed the current conflict entirely on Russian President Vladimir Putin and described the Russian government’s explanations for invading Ukraine as either delusional or disingenuous. Dr. Nichols concluded his presentation by suggesting a few potential outcomes of the war, the worst-case scenario being Russia’s use of nuclear weapons and all-out war between Russia and NATO.
For the next thirty minutes Dr. Nichols took questions. One student asked what impact the war would have on China, especially its goal of bringing Taiwan under its control. Dr. Nichols answered that China was certainly carefully watching the West’s response to Putin's aggression, making it even more important that NATO and its allies demonstrate a firm and united opposition. Another student asked about the likelihood of Putin losing power because of Russian missteps, rising casualty rates, and the effects of severe economic sanctions. Dr. Nichols responded that it was unlikely that Putin would be deposed and, like Communist leaders during the Soviet era, might “become ill.” Dr. Nichols finished the evening’s program with a somewhat hopeful remark that the war might be over by early May with Putin declaring victory, regardless of how bad the actual outcome is for Russia.
Since February, Dr. Nichols has been making almost nonstop appearances on national news programs, including on MSNBC, CNN, and NPR. He is a contributing writer at the Atlantic magazine, as well as a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a senior associate of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs in New York City.
One student described Dr. Nichols’ talk as extremely helpful and engaging, while a faculty member called it “a huge success.” While speaking on the Bulwark
podcast the following day, Dr. Nichols gave a shout-out to Groton. “I did a talk last night at the Groton School,” he said, “so a wave to the kids at the Groton School—they were great.”—Tommy Lamont, history teacher